In the Age of Viral Video, it is hard to believe but it is true: Abraham Zapruder’s home movie of JFK’s assassination on November 22, 1963 was not shown to the American people for twelve years after it was first taken.
The film was among the most important pieces of evidence in the death of the president. But the U.S. government, the Kennedy family, or Time-Life Inc. (which bought the film from Zapruder) cared to make it public. There were questions of taste. The graphic depiction of violence was not normal in the American culture the way it is today.
Selected frames of the Zapruder film–what we would call “screen grabs”–were published in Life magazine, a week after the Dallas tragedy. Within a few years blurry copies were shown on college campuses. But an early-generation version of the film–now available in many different iterations on YouTube– was not shown to the nation until March 6, 1975.
That’s when Robert Groden, photographic consultant for the U.S. House Select Committee on Assassinations, made history with JFK activist Dick Gregory. They appeared on Geraldo Rivera’s ABC late-night TV program “Good Night America” and showed the Zapruder film of the assassination to a mass audience for the first time.
The film had an immense impact on American public opinion. It seemed to show President Kennedy struck by gunfire from two directions.
That’s what CIA director John McCone privately told JFK’s brother, Robert, in December 1963. That was not an opinion that the government, the Kennedy family, or Life magazine care to encourage.
Amidst public outrage about revelations that the CIA had been plotting to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro at the time of JFK’s death, Geraldo Rivera, an enterprising young reporter, dared to put Groden on the air.
A taboo had been broken. Now Zapruder’s film can been seen by anyone with a computer and Internet connection.
“Can’t imagine a more meticulous take down of the CIA’s decades-long subterfuge surrounding the assassination.”
Jefferson Morley’s new ebook, CIA and JFK: The Secret Assassination Files, available on Amazon, provides the fullest account of the role of CIA operations officers in the events leading to the death of JFK, with a guide to what will be declassified in October 2017.